With only four dates on the calendar for the 2018-19 season, the FIS World Cup halfpipe campaign is more of a sprint than a marathon.
That also means that at the midpoint of the season, Whistler skier Simon d'Artois holds the series lead as he seeks his first Crystal Globe. After winning at Secret Garden Ski Resort in China in December, paired with a sixth-place finish at Colorado's Copper Mountain to open the season, the 26-year-old has a 10-point lead over New Zealand's Nico Porteous, and a 20-point lead over brother Miguel Porteous.
The season will resume Valentine's Day weekend in Calgary and will wrap in early March at California's Mammoth Mountain. The traditional closer at Tignes, France, is listed as cancelled on the FIS website.
"I want to come out on top and maintain that first position and get that Crystal Globe," d'Artois said.
d'Artois' performance in China was top-notch, as all of his three runs scored highly enough to win. He started with a 91.25 and only grew from there, scoring a 92 before wrapping with a 93.50 to run away with the victory over Nico Porteous' 89.50.
"I was working towards putting down three solid runs. That's my goal for the rest of the season, at each competition, I just want to make sure that I'm putting down three runs," he said. "It gives me confidence in my skiing; and I'm just trying to maintain that and keep going.
"I was just trying to work on some little specifics of my run as I progressed. I wanted to land one run at the start and then I just tried to bring up my amplitude and clean up different aspects of my run that I thought needed some work," he added.
After having two events in relatively close proximity in Colorado, d'Artois and his teammates had to endure a less-than-ideal slate until the medals were handed out.
"It was definitely a whirlwind of a trip. I left Colorado on Sunday, the 16th (of December) and flew to L.A. that night. Then that morning, at 12:50 a.m., we had a flight to China," he said. "We landed at 5 in the morning, took a shuttle up to the hill and then I skied for an hour. That was the only training block I got. We had a day off, then we had the qualifiers and finals all in one day because the weather was moving in.
"I was there for three nights, pretty much."
d'Artois said the conditions at Secret Garden were "really good" and that helped him quickly gain comfort on the course. With China set to host the next Winter Olympics in 2022, and Secret Garden on tap as one of the venues, d'Artois observed some increasing interest in winter sports in the country.
"They're definitely working to get more people interested in skiing and snowboarding," he said. "The people there think it's pretty cool."
d'Artois noted that while the Secret Garden resort was fairly empty while he was there, he added that it was still fairly new and he was also there during the week, and it seemed primed to fill up on the weekend.
With political tension between China and Canada ongoing after Canadian authorities detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou and China responded by arresting three Canadian citizens, there was the prospect of some problems, though d'Artois didn't feel at risk because of the high-level manoeuvring.
"For the most part, we were removed from all that stuff that was going on," he said. "But going through the airport on the way out, somebody mentioned it, and our coach, Trennon (Paynter) was pulled aside for a quick second because he had a battery that wasn't allowed on the plane, so somebody made a joke."